Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Healthy Tips for Women

Are you looking for solid guidelines for staying healthy and happy naturally? Tune in for a few of the basics about nutrition, herbs and lifestyle habits for women. You’ll also hear some specifics on mood, menopause and weight. Dr. Tori Hudson is a naturopathic physician, professor and women’s clinic medical director.

These were Dr. Hudson’s top general suggestions for women to stay healthy:
  • Certain things are more important during certain age groups, and change throughout a woman’s life.
  • Research supports aerobic exercise (as well as some strength training) to benefit our bones, heart, immune, joints, weight management, diabetes, and even reducing risk of breast cancer. (At least 3.5 hours per week.)
  • Research is solid for the benefits of exercise, essential fatty acids both in diet and supplements (nuts and seeds olive oil and fish and fish or seed oil supplements.)
  • We get a lot of bang for our buck with vitamin D. We’re recently understanding much more about value of vitamin D.  The guidelines for daily recommendations may be moving up to 1000 -2000 units / day.
  • She also recommends whole fresh foods, good water and minimizing exposure to environmental toxins.
Beyond a multivitamin each day, women should focus on:
  • Women who are having regular menstrual cycles need to have iron. A multivitamin with iron is recommended. Most women don’t need extra iron, but some do (check with your practitioner.)
    • If you do take an iron supplement, vitamin C from certain plants can increase absorption and make constipation less likely.  After stopping menstruation women don’t need iron.
    • For children and up though teenage age years, calcium is important. This is also the case later in life (70s+.)
    • As mentioned, vitamin D is helpful for all ages.
    • Focus on the fatty acids, especially those in the diet.  Fish oil supplementation is recommended for anyone.
    • So vitamin D, fish oil supplements and probiotics are the expert’s routine thoughts for most people. Then she looks for individual needs for B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, iron, selenium & numerous antioxidants.
What can women do naturally to help with anxiety and depression?
  • It starts with attending to things in our life that could go awry (i.e. how can we stabilize our relationships, our home life, work life, economic life, spiritual life?)  Dr. Hudson said that we can’t talk about taking an herb or vitamin without mentioning those things.
  • But there are some helpful natural compounds for anxiety:
    • A nice gentle one that doesn’t have negative interactions with medications is an amino acid called L-theanine.
    • A nutrient called GABA or an herb called kava are a bit more assertive, for when anxiety is more problematic in one’s life.
    • For depression, many people have heard about St. John’s Wort. It’s still is the #1 most important plant that’s been researched for mild to moderate depression.
    • Tryptophan and SAMe can also improve serotonin levels.
    • Dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine are other brain chemicals that are affected by other nutrients and amino acids. For example, L-tyrosine can improve dopamine levels (which is a mood enhancer.)
    • Vitamin D can also improve dopamine levels.
  • This is why some people who start getting more vitamin D start to feel better and their mood improves.
These days many women are looking to natural medicine for help with typical menopause symptoms.   However, there are so many products and claims out there, it’s hard to know who to trust and which path to choose.
  • There is a lot of research in this area. Dr. Hudson believes that old ideas that have been carried forward should be replaced with new modern botanical research.
  • For example, black cohosh is the #1 most researched plant for menopause symptoms. There have been more than 100 studies over the last 25 years for an array of menopause symptoms including hot flashes.
    • Not all studies show that it’s beneficial and it won’t work in all women with all symptoms, but it’s the most important plant to know about.
  • There’s a special organic maca extract with two quality published studies on menopause symptoms.
  • There are studies on St. John’s Wort for menopause symptoms in particular. For example, a combination of black cohosh and St. John’s Wort was shown to be a little bit better than just black cohosh alone.